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Guitar Amp Buying Guide

Learn about the types of amps that exist, how to choose a size, and other considerations you need to know before buying.

An electric guitar without an amp is like pasta without sauce. Plugging your guitar into an amplifier – or “amp,” if you’re nasty – allows you to unleash the full potential of its sound. Not only does an amp allow those notes and chords to ring out, but it provides guitarists with a mechanism to alter their sound and play with effects.

Whether you’re practicing on your couch or playing a gig in a small venue, there’s an amp for every occasion. We’ll walk you through the basics of buying an amp, what considerations you should keep in mind, and share some of our favorite picks for the best amps for beginners.

Buying A Guitar Amp For Beginners

Congratulations! You’ve got an electric guitar and have taken the first steps on a lifetime musical journey. While your guitar will be your trusty companion, you’ll need an amp to help you hear the powerful sound that instrument is capable of producing. Playing while plugged into an amp can allow you to better master finger positionings of chords and hear your guitar’s sustain and resonance while playing.

While you may have had a list of considerations in mind while shopping for your first guitar, you’ll also want to be aware of several factors when choosing an amp. The types of music you enjoy, the size of the space where you’ll be playing and volume, portability, and even effects you may want to use will likely influence your choice of amp.

We’ll discuss each of these considerations in greater detail to help you make your choice:

• Recommended Guitar Amps For Beginners
• Consider the Type of Music You Play
• Consider the Amp Size and Portability
• Consider the Amp Volume and Wattage
• Consider the Material
• Consider the Guitar Amp Tone and Effects
• The Different Types of Guitar Amps
• Get Inspired with Fender Play

Recommended Guitar Amps For Beginners

Before we dive into what to keep in mind when choosing an amp, let’s start off with some of our top picks for beginners. From ultra-portable amps to amps packed with built-in features and effects, there are quite a few affordable and awesome amps available. Here are some of our favorites:

Best Ultra-Portable Amp: Mustang™ Micro

The Mustang Micro checks many of the boxes for an outstanding amp for beginners. At 3 inches tall by just one inch wide, this tiny amp plugs directly into your guitar, allowing you to sit or walk with it while you practice. Despite its small size, the Mustang Micro is loaded with 12 amp models and 12 effect combinations. It’s also bluetooth compatible, has a headphone jack for quiet practice, and a USB-C input for recording, updating its firmware, or recharging the Micro’s included lithium ion battery. Whether you’re practicing at home or squeezing in a session on the road, the Mustang Micro is the ideal amp for the guitaris-on-the-go.

Mustang Micro

Best Practice Amp for Beginners: Frontman 10G

The Frontman 10G keeps it simple for beginners who want to plug in, practice, and experiment with their tone. The Frontman 10G is a 10 watt practice amp with a 6” Fender® Special Design Speaker, and gain, volume, treble, and bass controls. This easy-to-use amp also features an overdrive switch that gives you a variety of tones. With just a flick of a switch, you can go from the classic Fender clean tone to a tube-style sound, or full-on distortion. The Frontman 10 includes an auxiliary in port, as well as a headphone jack for silent practice.

Frontman 10G

Best Amp for Effects Lovers: Mustang LT25

For players who want to try all the effects and crave flexibility, the Mustang LT25 offers ease-of-use and an endless array of effects. This 25 watt amp’s compact size is ideal for playing in a small practice space, or even for a recording session at-home. The Mustang LT25 has 30+ built-in presets that give you a wide range of tones, from country picking to thrash metal. It also has 25 different effects, giving you the ability to carve out a sound that’s uniquely yours. This powerful and portable amp also contains a built-in tuner, auxiliary jack to easily plug in and play, and a headphone jack for a quiet practice. It also has a USB port to easily update the Mustang LT25’s firmware, giving you even more access to new tones and effects.

Mustang LT25

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Best Amp for a Heavy Sound: Champion 50XL

Despite its sleek, intimidating, black-on-black aesthetic, the Champion 50XL is easy to use. But don’t sleep on its ability to deliver a sonic boom. With four stompbox effects and 12 amp tones easily dialed-in via the vorce selector knob, the Champion 50XL amp is perfect for rehearsals or extended jam sessions. Its heavier sound is made even more impressive by its built-in assortment of classic effects (including delay, wah, reverb & chorus). The Champion 50XL also includes a tempo button you can tap for time-based effects.

Champion 50xl

Best Modeling Amp for Beginners: Mustang 50GTX

Modeling amps pack all of the sound features of classic and current models into a single package. The Mustang 50GTX gives you a variety of options to craft your perfect sound, pulling in a variety of effects (including overdrive, fuzz, delay, and pitch shift), as well as the tones of several Fender classics like the Vibro King and Silver Jubilee. The Mustang 50GTX is packed with 200 onboard presets via the Fender TONE 3.0 app to help you dial in your tone. The bright LCD color display makes it easy to see your settings and easily spin through its interface. Once updates are available, you can use the amp’s built-in Wi-Fi to update, or download presets directly from the Fender cloud.

Mustang GTX50

Consider the Type of Music You Play

Now that you’ve gotten a look at some of our favorite amps for beginners, it’s time to deepen your knowledge of the various types of amps available and considerations to help you narrow the field. The type of music you play will likely influence your choice.

Do you get fired up when you hear the overdrive of a metal solo? Do you groove to the crisp precision of country picking? Or does the sound of mellow acoustic chords strike something within you? The style of music you play – and your personal playing style – may dictate the type of amp you choose.

When asking yourself, “what amp do I need,” look to the types of music you love to play. Look for amps that boast features that can give you the sound you’re looking to produce. Many guitar amps are designed with versatility in mind, boasting a variety of built-in options for tones and effects you can dial in to produce a sound that feels at home with your favorite genres.

For instance, if you play pop, country, or jazz, an amp that delivers a crisp, clean sound is ideal. If you like your playing to have more crunch or fuzz, opt for an amp with pre-loaded effects. If you’re still experimenting with your sound or unsure, look for an amp that gives you the best of all worlds.

While these amps are great overall choices for those who play lead, as well as rhythm, you may be looking for something a little different if you play an acoustic electric guitar or bass.

A bass amp is designed to give you more of that low-end rumble, adjust your tone via presets and built-in effects, plus makes use of many of the features baked into electric guitar amps. While you can play bass using a guitar amp, a bass amplifier is specially designed to pump out your instrument’s sound without it getting muddied. Typically, a bass amp has a bigger speaker and slightly higher wattage for output.

If your guitar-of-choice happens to be an acoustic electric guitar, you’ll want an amp designed to enhance the gorgeous tones of an acoustic guitar, allowing its natural resonance to pour through. Acoustic guitar amps aren’t often equipped with the full range of presets and tones that many electric guitar amps include. However, some have built-in reverb to bring out the acoustic flavor and amplify it, as well as a looper that allows you to layer your sound. Many acoustic amps can also double as a PA system or have a second channel to plug in a microphone for solo singer-songwriter performances.

Consider the Amp Size and Portability

When weighing how to choose the right guitar amp, keep size in mind. How big – or how small – is your practice space? Will you be taking your amp with you to practice or jam sessions? If you’ve already started playing gigs, what is the size of the venue and how much amplification will you need to fill the space?

When choosing a beginner’s practice amp, keep in mind where you’ll be practicing. If you live in a house with other people or in a small apartment, look for an amp that has a headphone jack that will allow you to hear the full power of your sound without disturbing your neighbors.

When you’re beginning your learning journey, a smaller amplifier for your guitar may be all you need. Practice amps are typically no more than 8 to 12 inches. (However, even smaller amps like the Mustang Micro can plug directly into your guitar without taking up any floor space at all.) Smaller sized amps are also ideal for packing up and taking to practice sessions. This eliminates the need to cart around heavy equipment. And even smaller-sized practice amps come equipped with built-in effects, which means you’re not sacrificing versatility for a more portable size.

Consider the Amp Volume and Wattage

The size of your amp and its wattage often go hand-in-hand. The classic Spinal Tap reference that, “this amp goes to 11” won’t always apply to beginners practicing in a small space. Rather, when it comes to choosing an amp for your guitar, you’ll want to keep in mind just how “big” a sound you’ll need from your amp to fill a space.

Smaller practice amps offer between 10 and 40 watts of power and are great for practicing at home or in a small space by yourself.

Going a step up in size, medium-sized amps are better suited for practicing with friends or even small-sized venues if you’re playing shows. Medium-sized amps typically offer between 50 and 100 watts of power. If you’re playing with other musicians, a practice amp won’t quite cut it, as your guitar will need to compete with the bass and drums in your group. So, having more wattage and volume to adjust when playing with others is key.

If you’re playing medium-to-large sized venues, then you’ll want to look for an amp with a higher wattage – between 100 and 200 watts – although some amps can go up to 300 watts. These larger, more powerful amps are designed to work with bigger venues, helping you to fill the space with sound based on acoustic principles.

Consider the Material

The outside casing of your amp also plays a role in producing a specific sound. While the size of your amp’s speaker and its electronic components help define what comes out of your guitar, so does its cabinetry. The “cabinet” is the outer casing of your amp that holds everything together.

Wooden cabinets – such as amps with a pine cabinet – provide less sound distortion compared to plastic. While amps with a plastic casing may be lighter in weight and easier to lug around, amps with a wooden casing help give you a clearer sound. (Just look at pianos and acoustic guitars for a prime example of why a wood casing can help your sound ring out true!)

While higher-end amps may be made from more expensive woods like pine, there are many amps that make use of more affordable wood composites (like particle board) that produce excellent sound quality.

In addition to the material of your cabinet, you’ll also want to take a look at the back of your amp. Is it enclosed all the way around, or is the back open?

If you crave a more natural sound, an open back cabinet allows the sound to spill out of the back instead of tightly compressing it. This is great for higher frequencies and guitar solos played further down the fretboard.

Closed back cabinets concentrate your sound and push it forward. This creates a more compressed sound ideal for midrange or low-end sounds, such as if you’re playing bass or crave a thicker, heavier tone.

Consider the Guitar Amp Tone and Effects

When choosing an amp, knowing the type of tone and effects you want to use can be helpful. Most amps are equipped with some standard knobs and basic tones you can adjust. Others have substantially more effects built-in that give you even more options to experiment with. When shopping for an amp, here are a few tones and effects to keep in mind:

Equalization controls - Equalization (or “EQ”) controls on your amp refer to a series of knobs that allow you to control the treble, midrange, and bass (low end) frequencies. How you configure these controls helps you to tweak the tone. Equalization helps you adjust your tone to help you get the right sound for your environment. So, the same tone and EQ knob configuration that works for a small practice space may differ slightly from the EQ balance you’ll need in a larger environment.

Distortion - The “gain” knob on your amp helps control the level of distortion. The higher you crank the gain knob, the greater the level of distortion. While you can use a distortion pedal, the gain knob allows you to warp your sound without it.

Reverb - Reverb, as a built-in guitar amp effect, refers to the amount of reverberation – or acoustic echo – your amp gives off when used. Reverb on an amp allows you to get a big sound that fills a space from even a smaller practice amp.

Digital effects - Many modern amps are equipped with a variety of digital effects that help you to produce a desired tone without having to purchase and plug in a variety of pedals. Previously, most practice amps were pretty basic – including only EQ controls or a handful of effects like gain or reverb. However, modern technology and innovation has made it possible to package a greater variety of digital effects built-into even the smallest of amps. While you may not need a full suite of effects at your disposal when you’re just learning to play, having an amp that gives you the ability to experiment with different tones and effects can really motivate you to continue practicing and carving out your own unique sound.

Multiple channels - Some amps are single channel, while others can contain anywhere from two to four channels. Multiple channel amps are ideal for players who want to switch between different tones. This is often achieved through a footswitch that allows guitarists to toggle between different channels. For instance, you may keep one channel for clean tones, while using a separate channel for effects like overdrive, or a chained distortion pedal setup of your own configuration.

The Different Types of Guitar Amps

Size, wattage, and built-in effects are all critical components when choosing an amp. However, knowing the different types of amps available can help you make the best choice to achieve the sound you want.

Solid State Amps

Solid state amps keep it simple, using built-in electronics to produce their sound. They’re low maintenance and quite reliable, making them ideal for beginner guitarists who just want to plug in and play without any fuss. While your solid state amp is likely going to be your trusty companion for many years,, it may require a professional to diagnose any problems with the electronics should they start to malfunction.

Solid state amps are a great choice for players who like to switch up their sound – shifting from a crystal clean sound to a heavily distorted vibe with just the press of a button. If your musical tastes span the gamut from pop to metal, a solid state amp may be the right choice to help you genre-hop with your playing.

Tube Amps

When it comes to tube amps vs solid state amps, tube amps offer a warmer, more vintage sound. If you love the feel of low down n’ dirty blues or swampy classic rock, a tube amp will give you that tone. While solid state amps are digital in nature, tube amps use vacuum tubes to amplify your sound.

While producing a unique sound, tube amps are more responsive and sensitive to their environment compared to their digital counterparts. Because tubes use filaments, those filaments can eventually burn out over time or their output can vary depending on the climate or other factors. This will have an impact on the integrity of the sound that comes out of your amp. While tube amps are more sensitive than solid state amps, it’s much easier to figure out the problem and replace a filament.

Modeling Amps

Modeling amps are a type of solid state, digital amp. What makes a modeling amp unique is that its array of on-board digital effects can “model” its sound after a number of different types of amps. They are able to replicate the sound of a vintage tube amp just as well as they are able to mimic some of the heavily distorted effect configurations of a full pedal board. All of these effects are pre-programmed into the amp and give players the ability to change things up.

Modeling amps make a great choice for beginners who haven’t figured out what effects they want to use, offering a greater array of options and tones. Additionally, they’re lighter in weight compared to tube amps, and don’t require having to purchase a series of pedals to configure in order to achieve a specific sound.

Hybrid Amps

Hybrid amps give guitarists the best of both worlds, combining digital solid state technology with the sweet vintage sound of vacuum tubes. Hybrid amps are unique in that they incorporate a tube into the construction alongside digital transistors. This makes them lighter in weight than a traditional tube amp that uses only a series of tubes to produce its signature sound.

Get Inspired with Fender Play

Part of the fun of learning to play an instrument is experimenting with different sounds and getting it just right. While every guitar offers its own unique sound – based on the combination of woods used in its construction and even string gauge, an amp can help you get the best out of your instrument and take your tone in new directions.

Learning to play guitar is a life-long journey. Fender Play can help you learn not just the fundamentals of playing guitar, but help you level up with more advanced techniques. From different chord voicings to techniques like tapping and pinch harmonics, Fender play breaks concepts down into bite-sized lessons. Learn these techniques and how they fit together in some of your favorite songs with Fender Play’s extensive library. Sign up for Fender play to get inspired and get practicing!